Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ye Olde Footy Derby

1860 and all that

This is more than a report on a football match, for it is about the oldest derby in the world between Sheffield FC and Hallam. They first played each other on Hallam‘s ground on boxing day 1860. So when they met for the game at Sheffield FC’s ground on Saturday, it was quite correctly turned into a festive occasion.

Nowadays both clubs are members of the Northern Counties East League. So we get home and away versions of this derby each season, plus cup games and friendlies. Before Saturday’s match, honours were even over the past ten league games. Each team having won 4 and drawn 2.

If they remain in the same league in 2010, the 150th anniversary derby at Hallam should really be something. I hope that it will be played on boxing day, to replicate the original meeting.

Hallam still play on their original ground and it is the oldest ground in continuing use in the world. So a 150th anniversary on its hallowed turf would be an historic oldest derby in the world on the oldest ground in the world.

If the teams find themselves in different leagues in 4 years time, then I hope they will fix up a friendly for boxing day. Whatever happens I want to be there (even if there is no game): unless they are playing each other on my local Sheffield FC’s ground that day!

For although Sheffield FC do not play on their original ground, they are the oldest team in the world, who helped codify the rules of the game. Hallam are only the second oldest team in the world.

Jameson with orange juice

When I arrived just before the kick off, I had probably missed the best bit. The ground was full of youngsters and of half drunk orange juice bottles, indicating that I had missed some festive binge.

The young orange half-drinkers were all from Sheffield’s FC “feeder” teams which are organised by AFC Dronfield. They provided a guard of honour when the derby day contestants came out onto the pitch. Two of them acted as mascots, with their parents lining their children up alongside the match officials and the team captains for the photo shoot.

Other parents came to see their children and we, therefore, had a packed ground by Sheffield FC standards - of some 500. I don’t know how many had to pay at the turnstiles and a much smaller official crowd might be recorded in the next edition of Sheffield FC’s fine programme.

Needless to say, every youngster’s attention wasn’t fully glued to what was a fine game. The trees at the top of a bank in the corner of the ground provide an attractive play area. So twice, loud speaker announcements had to gently admonish children to get them to stop their antics, which were seen as a danger to themselves.

As with the last game I witnessed at the ground, the match was played in good conditions The grass was spruced up by earlier rain, but the sun shone brightly for the first half and it only clouded over some ten minutes into the second half. Just the right condition for spectators, whether they were 7 year olds or ye three-score-years-and-ten .

Although I did not join the children playing on the embankment. I did manage a Guinness at the Club’s pub both before the match and also at half-time; with a quick Jameson afterwards before I caught a bus back to the top of the hill to my home.

No wonder I fell asleep after all that, not even being too bothered about the news of Sunderland’s 4-1 defeat at Preston.

We was robbed, again

Sheffield FC edged the early exchanges with a recent hero, Chris White, fluffing two chances to put them in the lead. It wasn’t to be his day and he was substituted on the hour.

Hallam came back to dominate the rest of the first half, with the home team still being a threat on the break. But it was goalless at half time.

The Sheffield FC manager played his usual three card substitution trick in a ten minute spell leading up to the three-quarters stage. The move seemed to work. It turned Sheffield into an attacking team and they pressed and took the lead. A fine cross from Darren Holmes was met with an even better header by their new striking striker, Vill Powell. More Sheffield goals now seemed to be on the cards, but it was Hallam who scored from a deflection.

Overall, a 1-1 draw was probably a fair result. But Sheffield FC supporters were deflated as it followed a straight five wins. This extends the shared honours with Hallam to a run of 11 games.

But we are used to Hallam spoiling the party. What are local derby’s for ? Last Xmas, I went with Rebecca my daughter-in-law and my son Stephen to see the equivalent game. Sheffield were then in the middle of a great unbeaten run which could have led to promotion. Inevitably, Hallam pinched that game 1-0. Here is a reasonable version of what happened, in the words of the latest Sheffield F.C. programme.

“A right controversial one this game. Tom Franklin gave the Countrymen the lead in the 32nd minute, after hitting Sheffield on the break following some sustained pressure by the home side. Hallam managed to fend every Sheffield attack away, and then had some amazing luck when Martin Taylor in the visitors’ net hauled down Duncan Bray on the edge of the box when he was clearly the last man. Not only was the Hallam keeper able to escape by staying on the pitch, he then rubbed salt in the wound by producing some top drawer(sic) saves to help take all three points over to S10.”

S10 is the postal area for Hallam. Sheffield FC’s is S18. So you can see that these are as close derby matches as are Sheffield United against Sheffield Wednesday. They are of course, much better value.

There will always be a next time.

Next Saturday, if everything goes to plan, I will be at a match which will have even greater historical significance for me than Hallam vs. Sheffield FC will on boxing day 2010. After Saturday, I will reveal all.

Sheffield FC’s next home game is against Liversedge, but what I really have my eye upon is a coming away game in Round 2 of the FA Vase at Durham City. It will be held a few miles away from the areas where my wife and I originated. It will take me back to seeing the Miners’ banners at Durham Big Meeting, listening to Donald Soper address the less well known Durham Methodist Big Meeting, Ann and I watching the film version of James Joyce’s Ulysses at its main cinema, climbing the Cathedral steps, catching all those trains from Durham’s fine Station, plus meetings of the Durham Fabian Society and an ILP Conference.

But it will be “howay the lads” for Sheffield FC, although that mackems terminology should give a clue to the big match I am aiming for next Saturday.

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